3 Nephi 11 opens with a voice from heaven interrupting Nephite conversation. Or so we likely summarize the story. There’s a curious detail, however, that we’re too quick to overlook in the account of this event: “And it came to pass that, while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven . . .” (3 Nephi 11:3). What’s to be made of this as if in the middle of this otherwise straightforward description of an event. The next few verses won’t be so skittish about placing things in heaven. Verse 5 will refer to “heaven, from whence the sound came.” And verse 8 will say that “they saw a man descending out of heaven.” In those instances, the “as if” construction doesn’t appear at all. Heaven is heaven, the source of both the Father’s voice and the Son’s person. We might note further that the phrase “as if” appears only twice more in the account of Christ’s visit (3 Nephi 17:5; 19:14), and the similar phrase “as though” never appears at all. Given its infrequency, it’s a bit strange that it appears in this first introduction of the heavenly voice. What’s to be made of this? Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘Scripture topics’ Category
Posted by joespencer on September 14, 2013
Posted by joespencer on September 7, 2013
The first verse of 3 Nephi 11 contains two very similar formulas, almost side by side, whose slight difference may be of real importance. Those gathered at the Bountiful temple are described as “marveling and wondering one with another,” and they’re described as “showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.” Two sorts of relation—being-with and being-to(ward)—are on offer here in strikingly similar formulations. Is there any significance to their joint appearance? How might we decide on the nature (and significance) of their difference? Do they play any role in the larger text of Third Nephi? I think there are interesting answers to all these questions. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on September 5, 2013
The setting of Christ’s visit to the New World is complex. A large group of “the people of Nephi” was gathered about the Bountiful temple, but they were not idly standing around waiting for something to happen. The text describes them as follows: “they were marveling and wondering one with another and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.” The first two verbs used to describe the actions of the people—”marveling” and “wondering”—deserve some attention, though they might seem straightforward enough. As it turns out, their coupling is quite infrequent in scripture, appearing only a total of six times. (I won’t bother with the last of these, since it appears in the Book of Moses.) Even more importantly, there’s a very specific genealogy of sorts that lies behind their coupled appearance here in 3 Nephi 11:1. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on August 27, 2013
3 Nephi 11 opens by noting that a “great multitude” was “gathered . . . round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful” (3 Nephi 11:1). A host of questions arise at this point for the careful reader of the Book of Mormon. When did the Nephites build a temple at Bountiful? Why was this temple spared during the destructions associated with Christ’s death, when the older and arguably more religiously central temple of Zarahemla seems not to have survived? Why was Nephi—and why were the other eleven who would be chosen along with Nephi—in Bountiful, and specifically at the temple in Bountiful? Was there some kind of ceremonial or ritual event under way when Christ appeared to Lehi’s children?
If anyone has begun to answer these questions, it’s John W. Welch, who, in a lengthy article called “The Temple in the Book of Mormon” as well as in a full-length book called Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, has had much to say about why Christ’s visit took place at the Bountiful temple. These questions are worth pursuing, and Welch’s studies are an important place to begin. I want, though, to ask a rather different question here—perhaps simpler, perhaps more complex. I want to think about the curious fact that it’s only here in 3 Nephi 11 and two centuries earlier in Mosiah 2 that there’s any talk in Mormon’s history (as we have it) of people gathering to temples in the larger land of Zarahemla. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on August 25, 2013
3 Nephi 10:18-19 provide us with what’s probably best described as Mormon’s introduction to the visit of Christ to the New World. The preceding several chapters have of course recounted the massive destructions and consequent human lamentation and divine communication associated with Christ’s death in the Old World. The immediately preceding verses, though, have brought that tale to a close with a challenge from Mormon: “he that hath the scriptures, let him search them and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions . . . is not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophecies” (3 Nephi 10:14). But in 10:18-19, Mormon leaves off this difficult narrative to turn to the “great favors” that were shown to those who were spared.
It’s a fascinating few words of transition, a passage we almost never pay attention to as Latter-day Saints. I want to focus on a few theological points of interest that appear in the text. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on August 25, 2013
So, several things have induced me to begin an extended study of Third Nephi—and specifically of the chapters that report the visit of Christ to Lehi’s children. And I’ve decided to post my ongoing notes here, so that I can revisit them, and in case they’re of any interest to others. I’ll get started in earnest with my next post. Here in this post I’ll just be providing an index to all the other posts I write. I haven’t any idea how long the series will be yet—I might write only three or four posts, or I may write twenty-five. We’ll just see what I learn as I work along.
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Posted by joespencer on August 16, 2013
Well, we’ve come to the last of this series—reflections on the last of the chapters of Helaman. This last post may prove a bit shorter, simply because there’s less here that’s jumped out at me as I’ve worked through the text. To work, nonetheless! Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on August 9, 2013
We come, now, to the last of the three chapters making up Samuel’s delivered speech. This one is a good deal shorter than the last two, making at least my exegetical notes a good deal shorter than has been my wont. (I’ve still found plenty to say at the level of the theological.) I’ll get right to work. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on August 2, 2013
Turning now to the next chapter of Samuel’s sermon (see my first post here), we begin to look at the series of “signs” Samuel provides for the Nephites as they near the events of Christ’s birth and death. The focus here shifts away from Nephite sinfulness. And the content of this chapter is, consequently, more intensely theological. We’ll have to see, of course, how it unfolds. Read the rest of this entry »